Literature

Where are Yeats, Eliot and Plath in a new survey of 20th-century poetry?

5 October 2019 9:00 am

Shelley famously and optimistically proclaimed that poets were the unacknowledged legislators of the world. Adorno famously and pessimistically declared that…

Fame made Gabriel García Márquez a pedantic bore

4 May 2019 9:00 am

Gerald Martin’s titanic biography of 2010, Gabriel García Márquez: A Life, was the product of 17 years of research and…

Writing as revenge: Memories of the Future, by Siri Hustvedt, reviewed

23 March 2019 9:00 am

Why are people interested in their past? One possible reason is that you can interact with it, recruiting it as…

Critical injuries: the perils of book reviews

15 December 2018 9:00 am

A decade ago, a publisher produced a set of short biographies of Britain’s 20th-century prime ministers, which I reviewed unenthusiastically.…

The two works of fiction I re-read annually

4 August 2018 9:00 am

Long ago, I interviewed Edmund White and found that the photographer assigned to the job was the incomparable Jane Bown…

Girl power – or groupthink in written form?

Who really wants to read feminist children’s books?

30 June 2018 9:00 am

A friend of mine who commissions book reviews has added a sub-category to the list of titles coming up: ‘femtrend’,…

How I write

12 August 2017 9:00 am

How do they do it? Among writers, the earnest audience member at a literary festival who asks, ‘Do you write…

What I’ve learned reciting poems in the street

2 April 2016 9:00 am

It was past midnight in Norwich. There was a keen wind rifling up London Street. It was dark and it…

Did criticism kill John Keats? Sketch by Joseph Severn of the poet in his last illness

Aphorisms and the arts: from Aristotle to Oscar Wilde

19 March 2016 9:00 am

The author of this jam-packed treasure trove has been a film critic at the New York Times since 2000 and…

Autumn: time for a pie

Autumn, season of conkers and new boots

26 September 2015 8:00 am

Each year when I see the first conker of the autumn I think: fire up the ancestral ovens! This incendiary…

Meet the librarians – and book borrowers – of the Calais Jungle

19 September 2015 8:00 am

Sikander and I are sitting at a small table in a small shed. The shed is filled floor-to-ceiling with books:…

With rain threatening, Jane Bennet departs for Netherfield — with her mother’s approval. Illustration by Hugh Thomson for Pride and Prejudice (1894)

Rain, shine and the human imagination — from Adam and Eve to David Hockney

12 September 2015 9:00 am

‘Pray don’t talk to me about the weather, Mr Worthing,’ pleads Gwendolen in The Importance of Being Earnest. ‘Whenever people…

Mary Shelley by Richard Rothwell

There’s something about Mary (Wollstonecraft and Shelley)

25 April 2015 9:00 am

If Mary Wollstonecraft, as she once declared, ‘was not born to tred in the beaten track’, the same with even…

Tolstoy with his secretary at Yasnaya Polyana, 1906

The prophet Tolstoy and his dodgy vicar

24 January 2015 9:00 am

One fine day in June 1896, a lone Russian nihilist visited Leo Tolstoy on his country estate. Come to hear…

Churchill reading in his library at Chartwell

Churchill was as mad as a badger. We should all be thankful

19 April 2014 9:00 am

Land sakes! Another book about Winston Churchill? Really? Give us a break, the average reader may think. Actually though, as…

Is any kind of sex still taboo in literature?

8 March 2014 9:00 am

The first gay marriage will be conducted this Easter, and those who still object to the idea find themselves in…

Ian Buruma’s notebook: Teenagers discover Montaigne the blogger

22 February 2014 9:00 am

Bard College in upstate New York, where I teach in the spring semester, is an interesting institution, once better known…

By the book: The NSA is behaving like a villain in a 1950s novel

18 January 2014 9:00 am

The continuing drip-feed of stories about governments and friendly-seeming internet giants sifting through our data has left some citizens feeling…

Breakdowns, suicide attempts — and four great novels

18 January 2014 9:00 am

Among the clever young Australians who came over here in the 1960s to find themselves and make their mark, a…

Scarlett O’Hara runs through the streets of burning Atlanta

'Where are the happy fictional spinsters?'

18 January 2014 9:00 am

This book arose from an argument. Lifelong bookworm Samantha Ellis and her best friend had gone to Brontë country and…

Look! Shakespeare! Wow! George Eliot! Criminy! Jane Austen!

16 November 2013 9:00 am

Among the precursors to this breezy little book are, in form, the likes of The Story of Art, Our Island…

Lose weight the Muriel Spark way

24 August 2013 9:00 am

Those of you dieting your way to a svelte physique amid the flesh-exposing terrors of summer should take courage from…

Mind your language: The springs before the Arab Spring

3 August 2013 9:00 am

Two hundred and forty-years ago next Tuesday, Thomas Gray was buried in his mother’s grave in Stoke Poges churchyard. In…